eclectic food for thought by "Sustainable Pattie" Baker
The coming of Totality today has made me think about the totality of my life as well, especially because it’s a birthday week for me. I realized yesterday while having yet another death-defying ride in the dangerous suburb-city where I currently live that I had gotten so fixated on “hitting my miles” lately that I have been forgetting about the smiles — the strangers I enjoy meeting, the art I love to discover, and the sheer joy of freedom I feel while Traveling at the Speed of Bike somewhere built to accommodate my safety.Life is too short and too precious to waste on bad bike rides. And so, effective immediately, I’m done with that. I will only ride where I’m wanted, where I’m happy, and where I’m free to express myself. It’s not about the miles. It’s about committing to a joy-based journey, and following my heart. Totally.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
You Are Needed
For parents of young children aching to take some positive action right now in our screwed-up world — If you truly want to make a difference, the best way to do that is locally*. If you told me 22 years ago when I moved here with a baby that I not only wouldn’t be able to ride a bike to the supermarket, park, or city hall a generation later but not even in another 20 years (based on the current transportation plan update), I would never have moved here. (See Stay in the Streets for why riding a bike is a political, environmental, social, and artistic form of activism. For more, see my new book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, instantly downloadable from Amazon to any device.)I tried. I started the Sustainability Commission and we passed the Complete Streets Policy. I served on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan steering committee and we included many details about bike-friendliness, walkability, and usable greenspace. I rode and met with so many leaders and consultants I can’t even count. My children and I rode to three different schools day after day when hardly anyone else did (where they were made to wait at the end of the day until every carpool and bus left), and to a community center one mile from our home where I had to make alternative arrangements for my daughters to leave camp there because riding a bike was a “special circumstance.” I’ve documented the economic impact of one little bike rack on a business and our city’s tax rolls. I’ve taken my life in my hands (see chapter 3 in my book — Pedaling as Fast as I Can, and chapter 6 — Noodle Lady), and I’ve documented and shared what it was like to be called an asshole on social media by one of your own because I was riding legally and safely in the only way possible on the only road to my neighborhood. In short, I’ve done everything I can. But it hasn’t been enough.Our city is still missing the point about designing a home, business, education, and leisure environment with safe access for all, with divided support for this simple principle. Your newborn will see no change unless you (or people you encourage) get involved. The plan right now does not account for your child (see photo of Pointy — the city thinks that’s just fine).There is no plan for a safe, cohesive, connected network. There is no Dunwoody Woodline in the next twenty years. Note: Kids don’t wait — they grow up. My baby from when I moved here in 1995 moves into her new apartment 3,000 miles away next week. My job is just about done here.Qualifying to run for City Councilor in the City of Dunwoody, GA (one of the newest cities in the USA and an Atlanta Regional Commission gold-level-certified Green Community) is this upcoming week. My own city councilor has never once replied to any email of mine about the dangers of riding bikes in his district or our city. If you want to create a safer and more livable city for all, you are needed. And you have my vote.(If you don’t live in my city, I assure you that you are needed in yours as well.)* I know you are ridiculously busy. I was, too. When I started the Sustainability Commission, I said I could not go to meetings at night due to family commitments, that the only way I could go is if they were at 7:30 AM, after I got my daughters to school. I served as chair of that commission for a year (until the mayor and two city councilors laughed in the faces of a roomful of children, and I decided to spend my nonrenewable resource of time helping communities-in-need start gardens instead), and it is now eight years later. The meetings are still at 7:30 AM. The point: you can create your own reality, as I did. Don't decide you can't be involved because the norm of evening meetings (or meetings at all) doesn't fit your schedule. Anything is possible.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
Epilogue: "Then She Is an Asshole"
Click to "Look Inside"I am working on the print version of my new book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike (currently instantly downloadable from Amazon globally — see USA link here/global links here). I am adding an epilogue, and perhaps photos and other bonus material, and I hope to have it out in time for the holiday gift-buying season. (Note: the less-than-a-latté price of the digital copy is going up soon — grab it while you can!) After two days of being shook up by an experience I had this week (during a week of high anxiety around the USA in general), I have decided to try to feel gratitude instead because it is a story I can share in the epilogue. Here is a rough draft of it:
I stood on a grassy slope right next to speeding drivers with a city councilor the day before the Comprehensive Transportation Plan Update vote in the self-proclaimed “family friendly” suburb-city where we live. Although she grew up riding bikes in Colorado, she told me in no uncertain terms that she is scared to ride bikes here. She voted to defer the plan’s passage the next night and encouraged changes to make the city safer for all. I felt good, like perhaps I had made a little difference with all the conversations, emails, photos, and experiences I’ve shared with many people with one goal in mind — no ghost bikes, those memorials to bike riders killed by drivers.
The next morning, I needed to get something at the Walgreen’s drugstore two miles from my home in the “village” part of my city, before heading into Atlanta. However, I knew the two-lane road would be clogged with bumper-to-bumper motor vehicle traffic and I wouldn’t have time to drive (I had walked the day before to get eclipse glasses from my eye doctor but it took me forever, mostly because I kept running into people I knew and kept chatting). I chose to ride my bike and I did the round trip, including the time in the store, in 25 minutes. I passed 92 cars and trucks on the way there. You can see a segment of that ride here:
The route home was not crowded at this time of the day, but that meant being extra alert and defensive about drivers who often speed. Additionally, the final mile to my home has no bike lanes, the pavement on the right side is all broken up, the road is too narrow for drivers to pass me with the legally-required 3-foot clearance (especially when the oncoming lane is packed with vehicles), and I needed to make a left turn into my neighborhood at pretty much the most dangerous spot.
As is legal and recommended, I usually “take the lane” to navigate this section of road. This day, I took it a hair earlier than usual because an 18-wheeler was directly behind me (and the driver was “working with me” non-aggressively to “share the road” in this way). I believe getting killed by a passing or turning truck is one of the most common ways women on bikes die, and that is partly because they are not always assertive enough to claim their space on the road when conditions warrant it. This is not always related to skill but often to the fact that women in general ride slower than men and aggression toward them due to their slower speed when in vehicular traffic on busy roads is shown to often be higher than toward men. Blah, blah, blah, whatever — there are many fun cultural anthropology details like that in the bikey world if you are interested. Anyway, here is me taking the lane, and here is the truck that drove safely behind me:My body camera shows that I took the lane for a total of one minute and six seconds. One minute and six seconds. That’s it. I got home safely and happily filled with endorphins. It was a great less-than-five-mile start to the day as #OneLessCar and I was proud of myself to have this errand behind me as I wouldn’t be coming back home until late that night.All was well until I saw on Facebook that some man I don’t know posted this on our mutual friend’s page: 8:30 this morning a cyclist going down Mt. Vernon 10 mph in the middle of the lane. Traffic backed up behind her for half a mile. Not good.
Another man I don’t know replied: Then she is an asshole.
A third man “liked” the asshole comment.
I was shook up all evening. I wanted to reply but tensions are running so high in my country right now and anger is palpable. I was afraid it would be directed at me in worse ways and I am simply not cut out for that. I don’t have thick skin. I take things to heart. I am vulnerable not just as a road user but as a person. Yet I didn’t want that misunderstanding about what is legal and necessary to just hang there. Plus, as a League of American Bicyclists’ Cycling Instructor, I felt some sort of responsibility to maybe enlighten readers a bit as to why bike riders might take certain actions, especially if folks don’t ride bikes themselves but encounter them on our shared spaces known as streets.
I slept on it. The next morning I posted about how that was me and that it was a legal, recommended, and necessary maneuver. I naively thought the man who originally posted would say something kind. I thought the man who tossed a public, hurtful name at me would apologize. I thought the man who is our mutual friend might take some positive action. None of this has happened.
I did not ride my bike in the place I call home the next day. There is literally no way for me to do so from my home to get anywhere without riding on main roads — and with school already back in session, the roads are busy for many hours a day leaving hardly a good safe time to ride anywhere. It will be hard for me to get out there again because I am reminded that there are people out there who don’t have my back, and today is not a good day for me to die. Like that city councilor, that makes me scared to ride my bike here.
As I tell myself in my book (and as a dear friend of mine reminded me that night when I told him how upset I was), trust the journey. For whatever reason, this is part of it.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
Which Path Will Our Cities Follow?
Leaders of one of the newest cities in the USA (my metro Atlanta suburb city — Dunwoody, Georgia) are voting to adopt the Comprehensive Transportation Plan update Monday night. It includes no safe, connected bike network that provides access-for-all. Not in the short-term. Not in the long-term (see page 61 — it doesn’t add up, not even in twenty years, to a cohesive, connected network accessible for ages 8-80, including those on e-bikes and in wheelchairs). There is no grand vision with stated goals to increase the percentage of people commuting by bike, riding bikes to school, or reducing car trips in general (such as to go to the supermarket or city hall) due to the availability of other options such as bike riding. There is no plan to apply to become a Bicycle Friendly Community, thereby incorporating enforcement, education, encouragement, engineering, and evaluation/planning into our way of operating and thus increasing our resiliency while serving as a beacon to new businesses and citizens. There is no Dunwoody Woodline (read the media release about what that could be).This is wrong. I am doing what I can to help leaders make a more informed decision about what it’s like when the rubber hits the road in our city, but there’s a strong chance that what I do simply won’t matter. That’s where you come in, right there where you live. I've provided a very short list of things you can do in chapter 10 in my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, that could make a difference in cities all over the USA. You are needed.And as for my local leaders, one final hope that my voice in the darkness will be heard:Dear City Leaders: If you vote for this plan, please do not pretend that the baby I saw in a stroller at Brook Run Park today will be able to ride his bike safely to the middle school or high school after he can no longer ride his bike legally on the sidewalk. Please do not pretend that the senior on an e-bike will be able to ride to the supermarket or city hall. Please do not pretend that the person in a wheelchair with the hand–bike attachment will be able to go to the mall or the medical center. Please do not pretend that the surging Millenial workforce in this city that shares the claim to the largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the southeastern United States will have commuting options beyond the automobile if they live locally. Please do not pretend that this is a family or business-friendly city. Please do not pretend you are anticipating and preparing for the future.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
Who you callin' . . .
Click hereAnd then you catch an unexpected glimpse of your strong and fearless self and you think, “Who you callin’ a vulnerable road user?!”learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
"In Any Language, It's a Way of Life"
When I was growing up in New York in the 1970s, there was a public service announcement that was broadcast over and over again to encourage pedestrians to cross at crosswalks and with the light. It said, "Cross at the green, not in between," and it ran in a large number of languages, depicting various combinations of pedestrians (most memorably mothers and children) who spoke those languages. The ending line always said, in English, "In any language, it's a way of life."
I'm happy to report that my new book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, is now available in Amazon markets all over the world. It is in English, but the Amazon page for each includes the native language in various spots. As I was just visiting each Amazon page and copying down the links for your convenience, I was remembering that old series of commercials. I was thinking about how in many of these countries riding a bike is already a way of life.
My hope is that my book can be a small contribution to making bike riding a way of life in more places, most urgently right here in the place I call home.
Australia: Look Inside
Brazil: Dê uma olhada
Canada: Look Inside
Germany: Blick ins Buch
India: Look Inside
Italy: Leggi l'estratto
Mexico: Echa un vistazo
Spain: Echa un vistazo
United Kingdom: Look Inside
United States of America: Look Insidelearning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
A Come-to-Jesus Moment
A two-way protected bike lane in a majority African-American neighborhood in Atlanta was just removed (right down to the street markings) by the city. Something about the church needing the space for parking, for congregants to turn into the parking lot, and for funeral line-ups. I think the local city councilor spearheaded the removal.There had been some talk about the pastor being happy with the possibility of removable flex posts to meet these temporary but important needs. But now the whole shebang is gone, even though data apparently shows (although I haven’t seen it) that the protected lane reduced crashes in the neighborhood while providing safer access to vulnerable road users (i.e. bike riders).But let’s be real about who the vulnerable people are. Chatter right now says that the folks in the neighborhood say they weren’t involved in the plans to add that cycle track in the first place. My guess is that the locals did have an opportunity for voice in multiple master plans, but those plans were most likely filled with hope of “rising tides lifts all boats,” so to speak, and the reality playing out around Atlanta (and elsewhere) doesn’t bear that to be true.My guess is that this is about the bike lane as a visible symbol of gentrification. My guess is there’s a very understandable lack of trust going on right now. My guess is folks are willing to risk the increased danger without the bike lane in order to reduce the danger of losing the place they call home. My guess is that this bike lane situation is a microcosmic example of a bigger issue. My guess is that this is not too far removed from my post titled Something’s Bothering Me About Belty. My guess is it’s all part of the same story. And, from what I understand, that would not make Jesus happy.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
This Thing Is Happening!!!
I am off-the-charts with excitement! This thing is happening! I was hoping to publish with Microcosm Publishing (publishers of AMAZING bikey advocacy books, and more) but I haven’t heard back from my query-about-sending-a-query (which is their online process), and I don’t have time to wait. I turn 54 years old next month and I take my life in my hands every single time I ride my bike to the supermarket one half mile from my home. I am not goin’ down with unpublished books under my bed!And so, I’m going LIVE with this on Kindle all over the world (downloadable to all devices) the first week of August, especially now that I finally have a cover I LOVE. (It took a while for me to realize the obvious — it is a love story!) Stay tuned! This book will be priced less than a latté and I can (almost) guarantee you that something in it will change, and possibly even save, your life. Traveling at the speed of bike saved mine.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
One of USA's Newest Cities Finalizes Its Transportation Future Tonight
Leaders of one of the USA's newest cities will finalize its Comprehensive Transportation Plan Update tonight. How forward-thinking will it be? How much leadership will they take? How willing are they to make a measurable difference in this changing world with real solutions that make sense for all? (Here's a Big Idea.)
If interested, click here for the comments I made about the 384-page document on the community input page last week, prior to the deadline for participating. Plus, I sent the email below to the city council members and the mayor back in February. I share this here just in case it does an ounce of good somehow, just in case my little rubber-hits-the-road lived experience matters even a tiny bit. This is not the time for sharrow-minded thinking.
Hi, all. As always, thank you for all you do. I am just touching base to say that I appreciated being included in the city's focus group for bike riders re: the updated Comprehensive Transportation Plan. After two meetings and an extensive consultant presentation, I would recommend three critical things be addressed prior to the March 7 public meeting:(1) The city needs a goal, vision, or policy statement re: bike-friendliness. There is no "stake in the ground" against which we can measure our success or evaluate our decisions, and I believe Staff would benefit from your direction on this. Currently, I don't know if we are designing for seasoned cyclists (such as the Pointy saga which Staff tells me is an acceptable best practice) or for a family-friendly community of people aged 8-80 (as other cities across the USA during this exciting time of infrastructure improvements are doing). The city is recommending new multi-use trails (since 75% of survey responded wants them) but how does that fit in with network that includes Pointy as well as bike lanes that are too narrow for safe, legal passage of motor vehicles? It doesn't make sense to me.(2) The people who are least car-dependent and most likely to benefit from biking need to be represented. These include those who live in the most dense areas of the city and have the lowest car ownership -- not just those at the lower end of the socio-economic scale (who have some specific concerns about bike access and safety) but high-earning-potential highly-educated Millenials as well. Plus, about 1% of the students in our city bike to school. One percent. In a family-friendly city. I asked at focus group meeting #1 for more diversity to be included in the group as I believe the real-life impact of solutions would be richer due to more diverse input, but that was not corrected by focus group #2 (although one participant's teen son added incredible value with his comments about guerrilla trails that some kids use now). I would suggest you consider reaching out proactively to members of these groups as you move forward as their rubber-hits-the-road input could benefit all of us.(3) The City of Dunwoody should publicly state it is actively pursuing becoming a certified Bike Friendly Community. The City of Dunwoody seems to be allowing itself to be left behind by not pursuing League of American Bicyclists' Bike Friendly Community designation. This designation ensures a balanced approach to bike improvements that address not just engineering but education, enforcement, and more. It also sends a strong marketing message about the kind of community we are at a time when competition for the best of the best is fierce. With the exception of the City of Atlanta (which is where I ride most frequently because it is safest to ride and provides the most bike access, believe it or not), the City of Dunwoody has the most impressive infrastructure improvements in the metro Atlanta area and could really make a name for itself close to home and around the country by stepping into the light a bit more.I am a Licensed Cycling Instructor (#5382) with the League of American Bicyclists and have been hired by the City of Decatur as their bike ambassador to teach seniors on trikes, an earn-a-bike program for kids in need, and bike rodeos for 4th/5th graders. I also provide private coaching to new and returning women-on-bikes (women make 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions, represent more than 50% of our population, and are the fastest growing demographic of bike riders), plus I offer my pro bono services to teach classes with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Relay Bikeshare and others. I offer a one-hour lunch-and learn to cities, corporations, and community groups and I recently presented in the City of Norcross, which is a Platinum-level ARC Green Community. I also recently participated at Bike Advocacy Day at the GA State Capitol for a statewide vulnerable user law and investment in the Georgia segment of the Maine-to-Florida greenway. There is great, great pride with what is happening in the metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia regarding bike friendliness and it is my hope that this will some day soon be a source of pride rather than divide in the place I've called home for the last 21 years as well.If I can provide you with any additional information, please let me know. Also, please feel free to visit my website.Learning as I grow,Pattie Baker
If interested, see my author page on Amazon.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
Introducing the Dunwoody Woodline -- the Gateway to Greater Atlanta
"As part of its Comprehensive Transportation Plan update, The City of Dunwoody, centrally located in north metro Atlanta, announced today that it is creating a 20-mile separated and protected loop called the Dunwoody Woodline to provide multiple transportation alternatives to all five business districts (which include numerous global corporate headquarters), every neighborhood and school, and every park in this gold-level Atlanta-Regional-Commission-certified Green Community. Additionally, the Woodline will connect to the 64-mile Perimeter Path that will circle Atlanta, Path 400 that runs alongside a main north/south highway, and the world-renowned 22-mile Atlanta BeltLine. The economic, social, and environmental impacts along the Woodline as well as within a quarter and a half mile of it are expected to be transformative for years to come and will firmly establish the City of Dunwoody as the premier live/work/play gateway to the entire greater Atlanta area."
14-mile version. 20 miles would connect more.
Sounds good, right? Except it's not true. Not yet, at least. The Dunwoody Woodline is just an idea, the need for which was made clear yet again yesterday when I rode to all the parks on the route pictured above. It is not a route I would currently recommend for the general public. But ideas are seeds that have the potential to grow over time. And so I'm planting it here.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)